Use Online Travel Companies to Attract Family Travel Business
By Matthew Rosenberger Consultant & Publisher, ABC Travel Guides for Kids | August 03, 2010
Psst. . . .I have a secret. If you want to know how to use OTCs to your advantage take a close hard look at your own website. Once you understand that the combination of your website and the customer service you provide cannot be matched by OTCs you will have the tools necessary to implement marketing strategies to reach the lucrative family travel market effectively and actually use the OTCs to your advantage.
It starts with your Website
Interestingly enough it is your own website and marketing that will determine how effectively you can use OTCs to your advantage. Developing an online presence with components of particular interest to families and children is necessary to highlight and distinguish your desire to attract the family travel demographic. While OTCs are committed to presenting a wide range of information to their visitors, they are not hotels and do not provide accommodations, they provide a service. This is an important point that must not be overlooked. A room booked at an OTC website and not your website may not only result in lower room revenues but also negative reviews and damage to your brand if a bad experience develops between the customer and the OTC. And while these elements may be completely out of your control, the consequences could be irreparable. So the challenge becomes creating a website with plenty of information that is relevant to the location and families that you wish to attract. Unique family packages and affordable pricing are the keys. Your goal must be to attract the web surfer directly to your site from the start, but even if the surfer lands at your site from an OTCs site that's okay too as long as you provide them with the information they are seeking and the tools to make a reservation or have their questions answered promptly and efficiently without frustration. The key here is that the hotel is in control and not at the mercy of whether or not the OTC provided satisfactory customer service for your guest.
Customer Service is the Key
The OTCs are not equipped to provide the same level of customer service that your hotel can provide. One of the most common complaints with the OTCs is the inability for the customer to get a "live" person to discuss their reservation or any questions they have. Your hotel has a huge advantage in this area and must highlight its online accessibility, as well accessibility through the more traditional methods. Train your staff to effectively deal with customers who are savvy web surfers and want to secure the best possible rate available for their family. Remember that the family travel guest is not the business travel guest and the key to attract families is to provide great customer service coupled with a strong message, "we want families". Families will look to factors other than price when booking a vacation. It really comes down to creating the best experience for the family with a package that is both entertaining and educational and all-inclusive. I love the idea of having a staff member at the hotel who is trained and equipped specifically to deal with issues of concern to families. You must consider the different needs of your guests and have the appropriate staff "on call".